West Virginia's head coach covered a myriad of topics, including the flooding issues that have displaced many West Virginians, and the state's response. After several areas outside Charleston, Beckley and White Sulphur Springs, among others, experienced major flooding - 23 West Virginians were killed, and hundreds lost homes - the tales of heroics and aid to the cause has been exactly what Huggins has come to expect from his homeland.
"The wonderful think about the state of West Virginia is that everybody gets involved," Huggins said. "The supplies that people have sent down there, they are filling up high school gymnasiums. The problem is how do they replace a home?"
The short answer is, of course, one can't, Even a complete rebuild won't bring back some of the belongings and sentimentality aspects. But the literal list of how people have been helped shines a bright light on the sate and its people. There were the State Troopers who waded into a flooded house to rescue an elderly woman floating on a mattress; the fire fighter who used a tractor and a rope to pull a man to safety; the stranger who gave a flood victim the shoes off her feet. That's not to mention the thousands of people who have donated items at the WVU Coliseum and other places, and those who volunteered for clean-up, cooked meals and more. There has now been multiple relief efforts started through the media as well, including MetroNews' Suit'em Up Campaign (click link for more info and to donate) as well as a planned Rebuild West Virginia telethon for Friday. Even state native, WVU fan and country music icon Brad Paisley has started a fundraising page, located at https://www.gofundme.com/westvirginiafloods.
"There was a guy who lost everything, his house and everything," Huggins said. "And he was at another town helping people clean up. I think that says really what our state is about. We have unbelievable people in our state, unbelievable survivors. Our state has gone through a lot here in recent years, and people just continue to respond."
MetroNews reported that "celebrities who will make an appearance during Friday’s program include Lewisburg resident and former NBA star Bimbo Coles, “America’s Got Talent” winner and Logan resident Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., country superstar Billy Ray Cyrus, New York Times #1 best selling author and Coalwood native Homer Hickam, Princeton resident Dreama “Mrs. Gilligan” Denver and more. The flood relief efforts will continue Sunday night with a live concert at Charleston’s Haddad Riverfront Park. Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will headline the show beginning at 8 p.m. The event is free to the public. Cleaning supply donations for the Red Cross will be accepted on site."
In less than 24 hours, $1,700 has been raised in the GoFundMe.com Suit-em Up campaign. The eventual goal is $35,000. Paisley's West Virginia Floods campaign has raised $116,000 in little more than an hour as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. The goal is $1 million. Both links are available above.
Huggins also spoke to how the team has responded to the loss of Devin Williams, a junior forward who decided to forgo his final collegiate season and enter the professional ranks. Williams was not selected in the NBA draft, but did sign a free agent deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. His departure leaves eight forwards on the roster, with Elijah Williams the most likely to fill the majority of Williams' void.
Macon, a 6-9, 240-pound junior, averaged 4.5 points and three rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game a season ago. That floor time and production are expected to increase this season, when the Columbus native should move into the starting line-up.
"Elijah is probably a little bit more offensive-minded than Devin was," Huggins said. "A rebounding guy like Devin doesn't come along very often. We were blessed to have him and Kevin (Jones) because those guys don't come around who are able to rebound it like Devin did, and rebound it in traffic. But I'm really happy with Elijah's attitude and the way he is preparing for the coming season."
Note: Huggins also addressed what new Big 12 head coaches Jamie Dixon (TCU), Brad Underwood (OSU) and Chris Beard (Texas Tech) bring to what is considered the best coaching conference in the nation. Huggins hired Underwood as an assistant when he was at Kansas State, and often matched up against Dixon when West Virginia and Pitt were in the Big East.
"They all three can really coach," Huggins said. "Obviously I know more about Brad and Jamie. Brad has done an unbelievable job. ... We go back to his Dodge City days. I knew him for awhile. I watched him coach, and he did a heck of a job and always had good players. He was a K-State guy, and very ingrained in the culture at Kansas State. Jamie did an unbelievable job at Pitt. Nobody liked playing them. They defend so well and had great shot selection. I have gotten to know Chris a little bit, and coach (Bob) Knight things the world of him. When coach Knight thinks the world of somebody, they are pretty good.
"There are great coaches (in the Big 12). I sat around the table last year and 50 percent of our coaches have coached in the Final Four. There's no other league that can say that. And there's been great players. I think when you look at draft, there's first round picks, lottery picks. We had the second mot and we only had 10 teams. Everybody else has 12, 14 or 16. It;s a combination of really good coaches and players. And the arenas you play in, there's a very distinct home court advantage in our league because so many venues are on campus. It's great student involvement everywhere you go. It's really the total package."